Friday, December 26, 2003

Cheney and North Korea

Dick Cheney personally intervened to stop negotiations concerning talks for a peace agreement with North Korea. Cheney said:

"I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it."

Raising the concept of evil evokes the idea of the 'axis of evil', and makes the Korean issue one of Good versus Evil, which presumably can never be concluded with negotiations. This is not just a gratuitous insult to the North Koreans, it also makes light of the efforts being made by China to eliminate the threat posed by a nuclear North Korea. Cheney prevented negotiations from even starting. According to Cheney and the neocons, North Korea is supposed to dismantle its nuclear weapons before the Americans will even begin negotiations, and as the weapons are the sole negotiating chip the Koreans have, they are not going to do that. Cheney's hardass position is so stupid that Bush had to have a conciliatory phone call with Chinese President Hu Jintao (you know the United States is in trouble when Bush has to play the adult role). Just as in Iraq, there appears to be a turf battle between the insane neocons, and the realists in the State Department, with Bush unwilling or unable to rein in the crazies. The context of this is that the United States simply can't afford a war with North Korea, the cost of which would make everyone forget about the mere hundreds of billions spent on Iraq. The number of American troops required has been estimated at 650,000 (and where will they be found?), and the number of American casualties may be as high as 250,000. Unlike Iraq, North Korea actually has weapons of mass destruction and will certainly use them. It also has an army of 1.2 million people (!), one of the most powerful artilleries in the world, and one of the largest special forces operations in the world, tailored specially for fighting in the Korean peninsula. Raising issues of good and evil in order to provide a snooty excuse to avoid negotiating to prevent a war against such an opponent is criminally stupid. USA Today reports the extent of the danger:

"The alternative to an agreement would be nothing like the relatively painless initial combat victory over Iraq. If diplomacy fails, North Korean troops are expected to fight and fight hard. U.S. officers envision North Korea attacking in a sudden, violent lunge across the border. The aim would be a decisive defeat of U.S. and South Korean forces in fewer than 30 days, before reinforcements could arrive and North Korea's economic weakness hampers its military, officials said."

North Korea's desperate economic situation means that they may see themselves as having only one chance if the Americans aren't prepared to negotiate: attack South Korea without warning. While the neocon chickenhawks strut their stuff and get to feel like tough guys, the United States takes a huge, and completely unnecessary, risk of utter disaster. How much longer can the United States afford to keep Dick Cheney around?